The Christian Doctrine of Vocation

laborIt’s happened more than a few times.  I’ll be teaching or discussing with someone at church on Sunday.  After a fruitful and stimulating conversation, the person asks how to connect the Christian life that most of us have little trouble living on Sunday to our weekday lives on Monday.  Particularly, how does Jesus and the gospel relate to my work?  This is a profoundly important question because we will spend the bulk of our time and energy throughout our whole lives doing work.  Whether job, career, schooling, or vocational training, most of us cannot get around the fact that life is full of work.  And unless you labor on staff at a church, a non-profit charity, or some parachurch ministry, it can be extremely difficult to live our work lives in a distinctively Christian way.  In a secular culture, working as a Christian can feel stifling.  In a work environment hostile to religion in general and evangelical Christianity in particular, working as a believer can feel dangerous.  To your career advancement, to your friendships, and even to your prospects for future employment.  How in the world does a Christian go about his/her work without checking Jesus at the front desk?  This is a difficult question to answer, but thankfully there are more and more thoughtful Christians providing answers to this dilemma.

The key is to grasp what God is doing in history as he is building his kingdom.  Once you understand that we were created for work, to tend our little plot of garden, to subdue the earth by building culture for the common good, and to pursue justice and mercy, then nearly every vocation and job can be viewed as brimming with possibilities to contribute to the kingdom of God.  Every field of endeavor is subject to the redemption and renewal that the gospel announces, creates, and will consummate on the last day when the New Heavens and New Earth become reality.  Education?  Yes.  Entertainment?  Yep.  Manual labor?  Certainly.  Public service?  Of course.  Banking and finance?  Yes and yes.  Jurisprudence (Law)?  Believe it or not, yes!  While there are sinful ways of expressing every category of labor, all labor can be redeemed for the common good for God’s glory.  What this means is that your 9-5 mind-numbing, soul-crushing job has meaning and value in God’s eyes, especially if you do your best, seek fairness and equity, and work with an attitude and goal toward loving your neighbor.  Martin Luther wrote, “The idea that the service to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in church and by works done therein… The whole world could abound with services to the Lord…not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field.”

Intrigued?  Still have questions?  Here are a few resources to get you thinking in the right direction.


How Then Should We Work? by Hugh Whelchel (see my book review)

Every Good Endeavor, by Tim Keller

The Gospel at Work, by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert

The Call, by Os Guiness

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good, by Steven Garber

Booklets & Magazines

What is Vocation? by Stephen Nichols (booklet)

Callings: Work and Vocation in the History of the Church, by Various Authors (Christian History Magazine, Issue 110)


Knowing God’s Will, by R.C. Sproul (audio series)

Our Work and Character, by Tim Keller (sermon)

Made for Stewardship, by Tim Keller (sermon)

Websites & Articles

Theology of Work Project, by various contributors

Vocation and Work, by various contributors (links to articles & audio)

Meditating on the Doctrine of Vocation, by various contributors (links to articles)

Channel of Faith and Work, by various Gospel Coalition contributors (links to articles and other resources)

Center for Faith and Work, by various Redeemer PCA contributors (links to articles and other resources)

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